28 January 2017

Shepard Fairey: Warning or an Endorsement?

Shepard Fairey is the street artist for the famous Obama-Hope posters popularized during the 2008 election. The poster became part of the permanent collection at the US National Portrait Gallery. After perusing his works in the Shepard Fairey gallery, was he spoofing Obama or endorsing him, was it an artful warning? Such is the Riefenstahlian dilemma.

It appears he was sincere in his Obama endorsement in 2008, but has since become disillusioned with the two-party system. His theme got hijacked and is now a disarmed popularized style. No doubt good for his pocketbook, but not consistent with the original artistic theme. Then there was the AP lawsuit which is now settled.

Now with Obama out of office, looks like Fairey may be back in vogue. Sales of George Orwell’s 1984 are up [Fairey did the book cover], and Fairey’s posters were widely seen at the Women’s mach.

George Orwell's '1984' hits bestseller list again
25 Jan 2017
2017 has been "doubleplusgood" for sales of George Orwell's "1984." The famed dystopian novel of life in a totalitarian state sat at No. 6 on Amazon's bestseller list Tuesday morning. The novel's newfound popularity comes several days after White House press secretary Sean Spicer argued defiantly that Trump's swearing-in Friday drew the largest-ever audience for an inauguration "period," despite obvious photo and statistical evidence to the contrary. Senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway later defended that argument by saying Spicer's false claims were actually "alternative facts." That phrasing was reminiscent of Orwell's "Ministry of Truth," which, he wrote, concerns itself with "lies."

'Hope' poster creator says he's run out of hope for Obama
29 May 2015
Shepard Fairey says he's run out of hope for President Barack Obama. Fairey is a street artist who is behind the designs for the clothing line OBEY, was featured in the Banksy documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop" and is most known for designing Obama's famous "Hope" poster. Fairey designed the poster for Obama's 2008 campaign and it became the optimistic symbol of his presidential campaign. When Esquire asked Fairey if Obama lived up to his "Hope" poster, Fairey responded, "Not even close." Fairey told Esquire that he never thought Obama would compromise on issues such as drones and domestic spying.

Obama 'Hope' poster artist Shepard Fairey fined
07 Sep 2012
The US artist who created the well-known "Hope" poster featuring President Barack Obama has been given two years probation and fined $25,000 (£15,000) in a criminal contempt case. He had based his poster on an AP photo and later tried to hide the evidence. Mr Fairey was spared jail but will do 300 hours of community service. The case was settled out of court before a decision was reached, with Mr Fairey agreeing to pay an undisclosed amount of compensation and the two sides agreeing to share the rights to make posters and merchandise bearing the "Hope" image.

Associated Press sues retailers over iconic Obama image
11 Mar 2011
The Associated Press has sued several retailers including Urban Outfitters for the unauthorized use of the Hope image created by artist Shepard Fairey. Street artist Fairey used the photo, taken by Mannie Garcia in 2006, when he created his Hope artwork during Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. Fairey sued AP in 2009, seeking a declaration he had not violated its copyright with his iconic image. AP then counter-sued, saying he had done so through his uncredited and uncompensated use of its picture. The deal agreed in January called for both sides to work together with the image and share future rights to merchandise based on it. 

"Hope" Artist Shepard Fairey Not Pleased With Obama's Performance
In creating his now iconic Obama "Hope" poster, Shepard Fairey went from being a cult street art figure to an artist synonymous with Barack Obama’s revolutionary 2008 presidential campaign. But the artist, whose stylized portrait was emblematic of change, said he hasn't been wowed by Obama's performance in the White House thus far. “Obama is to me a quality human being and someone that, given the limitations of the two-party system, that’s trying to do a good job. The two-party system is not yielding the results I want to see.”

Obama poster artist Shepard Fairey is arrested on tagging charges
08 Feb 2009
Fairey was arrested Friday night in Boston on his way to the Institute of Contemporary Art to DJ at a sold-out party kicking off his first solo exhibition, “Supply and Demand.” Two arrest warrants had been issued Jan. 24 after police determined that he had tagged property in two locations with his street art campaign featuring Andre the Giant and the word "obey," said Boston police officer James Kenneally.

Copyright battle over Obama image
05 Feb 2009
The Associated Press is claiming compensation for the use of one of its photographs to create the most iconic image of Barack Obama. Speaking in an interview with the BBC World Service before the copyright row erupted, he said he was more accustomed to making negative posters of politicians, but was inspired to create a positive image of Barack Obama when he heard him speak at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

After the Obama poster, Mad Magazine spoofs the style 

27 January 2017

Plutonomy Series

Referencing Michael Moore's spoofamentary on capitalism – Capitalism: A Love Story. The highlight for me was the mention of the Citigroup’s 2005 macro-economic analysis report which I’ve excerpted below. This insightful, blunt, and smug analysis was obviously meant for a select high-net-worth social group. Their conclusion - “So long as economies continue to grow, there is little threat to Plutonomy.” And that is the Achilles’ heel of plutonomy – perpetual growth. This is a repeat story with ample warning.

Other mentionable moments include Reagan as a spokesman for GE and Chesterfield cigarettes, a marketing success. Also good footage of FDR's forgotten Second Bill of Rights speech and Jimmy Carter’s Crisis of Confidence speech. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur urges Americans facing foreclosure to “be squatters in your own homes”. Elizabeth Warren has her own documentary on credit card abuse - Maxed Out. Gotta love that there's a legal term called "Dead Peasants" for insurance policies that companies purchase on their employees. And then the clip of companies profiting off the prisonization of Juveniles in collusion with the Court was truly evil.

Plutocrats by Chrystia Freeland, 2012, Excerpts
The emergence of this new virtual nation of mammon is so striking that an elite team of strategists at Citicorp has advised the bank’s clients to design portfolios around the rising power of the global super-rich. In a 2005 memo they observed that “the World is dividing into two blocs – the Plutonomy and the Rest”.

Plutonomy Series

Citigroup Equity Strategy Report, 2005, Excerpts
Analysts: Ajay Kapur, Niall Macleod, & Narendra Singh
16 Oct 2005

Citigroup Disclaimer: “We should at this point make clear that we have no view on whether plutonomies are good or bad, our analysis here is based on the facts, not what we want society to look like.”

Infographics on the distribution of wealth in America

Mexicans Are Not Happy With a ‘Vanity Fair’ Cover Featuring Melania Trump
27 Jan 2017
First Lady Melania Trump can be seen twirling a diamond necklace on the cover of Vanity Fair Mexico's February issue, just above a cover line that suggests she is "the new Jackie Kennedy." The photo first appeared in the April 2016 issue of GQ. Trump's new cover arrives as tensions between President Donald Trump and Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto continue to grow. Yesterday, the two cancelled a meeting following Trump’s announcement that he was moving forward with plans to build his Mexico border wall.

Beijing overtakes New York as new 'billionaire capital'
25 Feb 2016

Beijing has overtaken New York as the city with the highest number of billionaires for the first time. A total of 100 billionaires are now living in the Chinese capital, compared with 95 in New York. Shanghai, China's center of commerce, comes in fifth place. Moscow was in third place with 66 billionaires. China has 568 billionaires after gaining 90 new ones, compared with the US which has 535. There are now 2,188 billionaires in the world, a new record.

Richest 1% to own more than rest of world, Oxfam says
19 Jan 2015

'This Week' Transcript: President Barack Obama
15 Sep 2013

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm looking at the cover of "Time" magazine this week. It says, "How Wall Street Won." 95 percent of the gains to the top 1 percent. That is so striking.

OBAMA: It is. And the folks in the middle and at the bottom haven't seen wage or income growth, not just over the last three, four years, but over the last 15 years.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you look at that, four and a half years in, and say, "Maybe a president just can't stop this accelerating inequality?"

OBAMA: No, I think the president can stop it. If you look at the data, a couple of things are creating these trends. Number one, globalization. Capital, companies, they can move businesses and jobs anywhere they want. And so they're looking for the lowest wages. That squeezes workers here in the United States, even if corporations are profitable.
Technology: if you go to a lot of companies now, they've eliminated entire occupations because they're now robotized. We don't have travel agents. We don't have bank tellers.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's bigger than Washington.

OBAMA: Right.

US income inequality at record high
10 Sep 2013
The income gap between the richest 1% of Americans and the other 99% widened to a record margin in 2012, according to an analysis of tax filings. The top 1% of US earners collected 19.3% of household income, breaking a record previously set in 1927.

Rich-poor divide accelerating, says OECD
15 May 2013
The gap between rich and poor widened more in the three years to 2010 than in the previous 12 years, the OECD group of industrialized nations has said. It says the richest 10% of society in the 33 OECD countries received 9.5 times that of the poorest in terms of income, up from nine times in 2007. Those with the biggest gaps included the US, Turkey, Mexico and Chile. Countries where the gap was least pronounced were mainly in the north of Europe, with Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Slovenia the most egalitarian societies.

Plutocrats: Who are the richest of the rich?
24 Jan 2013

Chrystia Freeland - author of Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else - and Anup Desai, a City University of New York professor involved in the Occupy movement, spoke to the BBC's Mishal Husain about the growth of the billionaire class, and what that means for the wider economy.

Davos 2013: Joseph Stiglitz attacks US 'inequality'
24 Jan 2013
The richest 1% of Americans now hold 25% of the country's wealth and more needs to be done to boost equality, Nobel Prize winning US economist Joseph Stiglitz has said. Mr Stiglitz, speaking in Davos, said this was a result of the top 1% seeing their wealth double since 1980. By contrast, he said that the median income level in the US had not changed since the early 1990s. 

Wealth gap widens between super rich and rest
02 Feb 2011
Even as the global economy has grown overall, within countries, the gap between rich and poor has increased. This winner-take-all phenomenon has been particularly stark in the US, where, between 2002 and 2007, 65% of all income growth went to the top 1% of the population. But the divide has also widened in Britain, Canada, Germany and Scandinavia. It has increased in the booming emerging markets, too - communist China now has a gap between rich and poor as big as that of the laissez-faire US. This split between the super-rich and everyone else prompted three Citigroup analysts to conclude that "the world is dividing into two blocs - the plutonomy and everyone else". For the most part, today's plutocrats are not a leisured, landed gentry of inherited wealth. Today's plutocrats are the beneficiaries of globalization. They are a trans-global community of peers who have more in common with one another than with their countrymen back home.

Chairman Alan Greenspan, Monetary Policy Report to the Congress
16 Feb 2005
In a democratic society, such a stark bifurcation of wealth and income trends among large segments of the population can fuel resentment and political polarization. These social developments can lead to political clashes and misguided economic policies that work to the detriment of the economy and society as a whole.

12 January 2017

Wealth Gap

Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, 2014, Excerpts

Physical reality of inequality is visible to the naked eye. Peasant and noble, worker and factory owner, waiter and banker: each has his or her own unique vantage point and sees important aspects of how other people live and what relations of power and domination exist between social groups, and these observations shape each person’s judgment of what is and is not just. There is a fundamentally subjective and psychological dimension to inequality, which inevitably gives rise to political conflict.

From 1977 to 2007, the richest 10 percent appropriated three-quarters of the growth. The richest 1 percent alone absorbed nearly 60 percent of the total increase in US national income in this period. In the United States, income inequality in 2000-2010 regained the record levels observed in 1910-1920. Capital ownership is increasingly concentrated once again today.

An economy and society cannot continue functioning indefinitely with such extreme divergence between social groups. The widening wealth gap raises many questions as to its long term consequences. The way this large divergence of income distribution has evolved demands an explanation.

The unlimited growth of global wealth inequality, which is currently increasing at a rate that cannot be sustained in the long run, ought to worry even the most fervent champions of the self-regulated market. It is an illusion to think that the laws of the market economy ensure that inequality of wealth will decrease and harmonious stability will be achieved.